Read an article this past week in Scientific American about a new fused silica glass storage device from Hitachi Ltd., announced last September. The new media is recorded with lasers burning dots which represent binary one or leaving spaces which represents binary 0 onto the media.
As can be seen in the photos above, the data can readily be read by microscope which makes it pretty easy for some future civilization to read the binary data. However, knowing how to decode the binary data into pictures, documents and text is another matter entirely.
We have discussed the format problem before in our Today’s data and the 1000 year archive as well as Digital Rosetta stone vs. 3D barcodes posts. And this new technology would complete with the currently available, M-disc long term achive-able, DVD technology from Millenniata which we have also talked about before.
Semi-perpetual storage archive!!
Hitachi tested the new fused silica glass storage media at 1000C for several hours which they say indicates that it can survive several 100 million years without degradation. At this level it can provide a 300 million year storage archive (M-disc only claims 1000 years). They are calling their new storage device, “semi-perpetual” storage. If 100s of millions of years is semi-perpetual, I gotta wonder what perpetual storage might look like.
At CD recording density, with higher densities possible
They were able to achieve CD levels of recording density with a four layer approach. This amounted to about 40Mb/sqin. While DVD technology is on the order of 330Mb/sqin and BlueRay is ~15Gb/sqin, but neither of these technologies claim even a million year lifetime. Also, there is the possibility of even more layers so the 40Mb/sqin could double or quadruple potentially.
But data formats change every few years nowadays
My problem with all this is the data format issue, we will need something like a digital rosetta stone for every data format ever conceived in order to make this a practical digital storage device.
Alternatively we could plan to use it more like an analogue storage device, with something like a black and white or grey scale like photographs of information to be retained imprinted in the media. That way, a simple microscope could be used to see the photo image. I suppose color photographs could be implemented using different plates per color, similar to four color magazine production processing. Texts could be handled by just taking a black and white photo of a document and printing them in the media.
According to a post I read about the size of the collection at the Library of Congress, they currently have about 3PB of digital data in their collections which in 650MB CD chunks would be about 4.6M CDs. So if there is an intent to copy this data onto the new semi-perpetual storage media for the year 300,002012 we probably ought to start now.
Another tidbit to add to the discussion at last months Hitachi Data Systems Influencers Summit, HDS was showing off some of their recent lab work and they had an optical jukebox on display that they claimed would be used for long term archive. I get the feeling that maybe they plan to commercialize this technology soon – stay tuned for more